Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII. 1876–79.

Syria: Nebo, the Mount

Mount Nebo

By Ferdinand Freiligrath (1810–1876)

Translated by J. Gostick

UPON the banks of Jordan,

The host of Israel’s name,

All Jacob’s seed encampéd,

Who out of Egypt came.

There lay the tribes, wide-spreading,—

There rest the pilgrims found,

Weary, with long years treading

The sandy desert round.

There from their hands the wanderers

Their staves have laid aside,

And spread them woollen blankets,

Their girdles loosening wide!

And on their robes reclining

In picturesque array,

The brown and swarthy travellers,

With beards dark-curling, lay.

Their tent-staves there were pitchéd,

Their linen veils outspread,

And in the midst was raiséd

The Tabernacle’s head.

Between them and the sunbeams

Green foliage shadow flings,

They filled their leathern bottles

At fresh cool water-springs.

With oil their bodies laving,

They washed away the sand;

The driver there was stroking

The camel with his hand;

And in the pastures round them

The quiet cattle lay;

Wild horses stared and bounded

With flowing manes away.

The weary joined in praises,

With hands upraised to heaven,

That now to all their travels

The longed-for end was given.

But some were busy whetting

Their swords with eager hand,

To combat for the pastures

Of their rich green fatherland.

It seemed for them awaiting,—

A land of endless store,

Like God’s own garden smiling

On Jordan’s other shore.

Through many a desert-journey

In spirit they had seen

That land of milk and honey,

Now lying there so green!

They shouted in the valley

“Canaan!” with joyous tone,—

Their leader up the pathway

Of the mountain toiled alone.

His snow-white locks were flowing

About his shoulders spread,

And golden beams were glowing

Upon his reverend head.

To see the promised country,

Before he died, intent,

Rapt in the glorious vision,

He, trembling, forwards bent.

There glittered all the pastures,

With thousand charms outspread,—

The land he sees with longing,

The land he ne’er must tread!

The plains, far out extending,

All rich with corn and vines,

And many a white stream, wending

Through rich green meadows, shines.

With milk and honey flowing

As far as eye can span,

All in the sunshine glowing

From Beersheba to Dan.

“Canaan! Mine eyes have seen thee!

Let death undreaded come!

In gentle whispers breathing,

Lord! call thy servant home!”

On light soft clouds descending

Upon the mountain’s brow

He came;—the pilgrim people

Have lost their leader now!

Upon the mountain brightening

’T is glorious there to die!

When all the clouds are whitening

In the radiant morning sky;

Far down below beholding

Wood, field, and winding stream,—

And lo! above unfolding

Heaven’s golden portals gleam.